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Interview: Alan Turing Cryptography competition

The University of Manchester is holding another cryptography competition (as featured in this news post earlier this week). We spoke to Charles Walkden, one of the competition’s organisers, about the project.

Registration for the Alan Turing Cryptography Competition 2013 is open

Following on from the huge success that was their inaugural competition earlier this year, mathematicians from the University of Manchester have put together another Cryptography Competition in honour of father of modern everything, Alan Turing.

This time, the competition is open to teams of school children from all over the UK, and comprises a six-chapter story featuring Alice and Bob Mike and Ellie, who get “caught up in a cryptographic adventure”. Solving all the puzzles and cracking the codes faster than other people gets you on the leader board, and there are prizes for being near the top as well as extra prizes for randomly-selected teams who’ve solved everything. (You know that since it’s a maths department, their randomisation algorithms will be top-notch). It’s also possible to enter as a non-schoolchild, and check your answers on the site, although you won’t be eligible for prizes. The competition is aimed at UK school years 7-11 (age 11-16), although I can confirm it’s dead good fun for anyone interested in cryptography puzzles themed around exciting storylines.

More information

Alan Turing Cryptography Competition 2013

Manchester University press release

Via Nick Higham on Twitter.

The petition to put Alan Turing on the £10 note has received a response

The petition to put Alan Turing on the next £10 note has received over 22,000 signatures, which triggered a response from the Government:

The Bank of England has been including historic characters on its notes since 1970. The Bank welcomes suggestions from members of the public for individuals who might feature on future banknotes, and publishes a list of these suggestions on its website. These suggestions inform the process when a new note is under consideration.

The mathematician and cryptographer Alan Turing features on the list which can be found at:

This e-petition remains open to signatures and will be considered for debate by the Backbench Business Committee should it pass the 100 000 signature threshold.

So it might yet happen. The bit at the end about 100,000 signatures being enough to put the petition before the Backbench Business Committee is boilerplate for petitions on – I don’t think the Bank of England needs new legislation to dictate who goes on the notes.

As well as Turing, the names of three other mathematicians are on the list being considered by the Bank – Mary Somerville, Charles Babbage and James Clerk Maxwell.

via James Grime on Twitter

Inaugural ICO Alan Turing lecture

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office, the “independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals”, is holding its first ICO Alan Turing Lecture at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester at 6pm on Tuesday 11 September.

According to the website, this lecture

will be delivered by distinguished Cambridge historian Professor Christopher Andrew, the official historian of MI5, who will be discussing the life and work of Turing.
If you would be interested in attending you are invited to send your expressions of interest to While places are limited we will be doing our best to accommodate those wishing to attend.

The inclusion of “first” suggests this is part of a series but it isn’t clear what form this will take. The website says they “hope to arrange similar lectures in the future to highlight important issues connected to the ICO’s work”.

Source: First ICO Alan Turing Lecture.

Via, and thanks to, @Ben_Nuttall on Twitter.

The Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill first reading

As was hinted at in a debate in Parliament to mark the centenary of Turing’s birth, a private members’ bill has been introduced in the House of Lords seeking a pardon for Turing – and Turing alone – for his conviction of gross indecency when homosexual acts were illegal in the UK.

The bill has been introduced by Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Sharkey, and the BBC reports that the Lib Dem MP John Leech has said he will take the bill through the House of Commons to make it law.

The Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill is summarised on the Parliament website:

To give a statutory pardon to Alan Mathison Turing for offences under section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 of which he was convicted on 31 March 1952.

Meanwhile, the relevant e-petition has surpassed 35,000 signatures.

Source: Alan Turing pardon campaign goes to House of Lords on BBC News.
More information: Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill on with debate schedule.

Ready: reaction-diffusion simulator

Google Code, one of now approximately a million different websites which start with the word Google, is a sharing platform for developers to exchange open-source programs and nifty things they have made.

One such nifty thing is this Reaction-Diffusion package, based on our old friend Alan Turing’s famous equation. The reaction-diffusion equation, originally given in Turing’s 1952 paper The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis, provides a model for how a mixture of chemicals, reacting with each other while moving under the action of diffusion, might result in the kind of patterns we see in animal print and elsewhere in nature.

Screenshot of Ready 0.3, showing a simulation of a reaction-diffusion system on a lion's fur